Welcome to the first of our new semi-regular feature: Books with Buzz. In this new series, we’ll get the rundown on the upcoming releases we hear readers are looking forward to from the people who know best: The authors.
First up: Lisa Kleypas. We read the boards. We hear the buzz. Anticipation is growing about her upcoming contemporary romance Smooth Talking Stranger featuring sexy Jack Travis and his (sort of half-hearted) vegan love. Let’s get the ball rolling with the publisher’s blurb:
Jack Travis leads the uncomplicated life of a millionaire Texas playboy. He makes no commitments, he loves many women, he lives for pleasure. But no one has ever truly touched his heart or soul. Until one day, a woman appears on his doorstep with fury on her face and a baby in her arms. It seems Jack is the father and this woman is the baby’s aunt. The real mother has abandoned the child to her more responsible sister. And now, Jack is being called upon to take responsibility for the first time in his life. With delicious romantic tension, characters so real they walk onto the page and into your heart, Lisa Kleypas delivers the kind of novel that makes you laugh, love; cry and cheer.
Here’s Sandy’s blurb:
Ready to hear from Lisa regarding this Book with a Buzz?
Sandy: Yowza, Lisa! I’m just going to flat out say that Smooth Talking Stranger is my favorite of your contemporaries. In your previous two, you’ve kind of been walking the line between woman’s fiction and romance, but this time out I think you’ve landed firmly on the contemporary romance side of the fence. Not that you’re not dealing with some heavy issues, but the focus here is firmly on the love story. So, am I crazy or does this one represent more of a return to those Lisa Kleypas romance roots?
Lisa: Thank you, Sandy—I have such positive feelings about this book, and I’m delighted to be able to discuss it with you! I guess it is more of a swing back toward my romance roots, but there are still a few scenes that give it a flavor of women’s fiction. And as you know, for me the point is always that love is the lodestar for every journey. In this book, the heroine, Ella, thinks at the beginning that she has it made. Her life is exactly the way she wants it, and she thinks she has all the answers. But the big and unexpected changes that she goes through—having to take care of her sister’s baby, the new relationship with Jack Travis—all of that forces her to take the risk of really loving someone. One of the themes in this book is that you have to be willing to make yourself vulnerable in love. Jack and Ella are both very good at protecting themselves, but when they’re with each other, they can’t seem to help “taking off the armor” so to speak. And that involves shedding the identities they have constructed, and finding out who they really are. One of my favorite conversations in the book is when they tell each other what they think the other one’s “perfect day” is . . . I think at that moment, they realize that they are connecting on a deeper level, seeing the true person underneath.
Sandy: Lisa, you’re a great writer, as well as a great storyteller – and that isn’t always the case. I read the book on my Kindle and one of the cool features is the ability to mark passages and sections. I marked this, for example, when heroine Ella first meets hero Jack:
“One glance and I knew exactly who and what he was. The classic alpha male, the kind who spurred evolution forward about five millions years ago by nailing every female in sight. They charmed, seduced, and behaved like bastards and yet women were biologically incapable of resisting their DNA.“
Sandy: Okay, who isn’t seduced? But for anybody who still needs more:
“’I respect you, ‘ he murmured. ‘And your views. I think of you as an equal. I respect your brains, and all those big words you like to use. But I also want to rip your clothes off and have sex with you until you scream and cry and see God.’”
Sandy: That’s visceral writing, Lisa, and I think it’s the difference between a good romance and a great one. What do you think makes a great romance?
Lisa: Oh, I am glowing—thank you! I think something about Jack, maybe that sense of masculine confidence—really gave the book vitality. And pairing him with a feminist was fun. As for a great romance . . . to me, it has to have an emotional drive that makes it feel electric whenever the main characters are together. I don’t know why it’s so much harder to create in some stories than others . . . as an author, I find it frustratingly elusive. Having had a lot of writing experience, I can always guarantee a certain level of quality . . . but I’ve come to accept that magic strikes when it wants to, and you can’t force it.
Sandy: Something I really loved about this book is Jack’s support of Ella. She has some major league baggage and an incredibly tough situation to deal with, but Jack is her rock. Okay, so he’s a sex god, too, but the emotional support he offers her is one of the reasons I think he’s about to be enshrined as one of my favorite Kleypas heroes. Is an emotionally supportive sex god your fantasy, too?
Lisa: I am laughing . . . now “emotionally supportive sex god” is my new favorite phrase. Yes, I loved it that Jack is a strong man who won’t disappear when the going gets tough. And he is a fixer, a problem solver—he likes building things, taking care of things, which is something that he and Ella have in common. But I think the key to his sex appeal is that he is mature enough to want a smart woman, a strong woman, and the challenge that Ella presents is a turn-on for him. There’s a scene when Jack is forced to take an honest look at a beautiful but completely shallow woman he used to go out with, and it actually embarrasses him. Later he says to Ella, “You look at someone like Ashley, and you know exactly what kind of guy would want her. And I used to be that guy, and it bothers the s*** out of me.” In other words, Jack is a grown-up, and he has understands that the fascinating people, the truly sexy people, are not the supermodel type.
Smooth Talking Stranger hits shelves on March 31st. Just like spring, it’s right around the corner.